U.S. intelligence knew Saddam was buying arms Peace overtures to Iraq continued despite 1989 report

November 02, 1992|By New York Times News Service

Four months before President Bush signed a secret order encouraging closer relations with Iraq, the Defense Intelligence Agency provided detailed information about the network of European companies Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used to buy technology that could upset the balance of power in the Mideast.

A classified 1989 document shows that U.S. intelligence knew that British tool-maker Matrix Churchill Corp., which had a branch in Solon, Ohio, played a major role in Iraq's weapons-buying program, yet did nothing to stop its operations.

Mr. Saddam used the company to buy seemingly innocent technology and equipment, then converted it for use in building a home-grown weapons industry, law enforcement officials said.

The existence and timing of the report raise the question of whether Mr. Saddam's arms purchases were aided by a lack of communication between U.S. intelligence agencies on the one hand, and export agencies and policy makers on the other.

It is not clear whether this June 1989 report, written more than one year before Iraq invaded Kuwait, made its way to top policy hTC makers within the administration, or the agencies that control exports. One Pentagon official familiar with the report, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was the kind of document that would be widely circulated among senior Pentagon officials.

Parts of the June 1989 report, as well as a classified Nov. 6, 1989, report by the CIA, were described last summer by Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, as evidence that the government had information about Mr. Saddam's arms network.

But other administration and government officials familiar with the report provided additional information about it, including the warnings about Mr. Saddam's growing power and aggressiveness.

The administration has repeatedly asserted that it did nothing to encourage Mr. Saddam's military buildup and that Iraq acquired Western arms technology by lying about the purpose of equipment it bought.

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